Saturday, July 03, 2010

UNCLE BILL AT PHUN CITY

This would seem to be an account by William Burroughs of his visit to Phun City. Phun City was a very strange rock festival – the unkind called it shambolic – near Worthing in the UK, organized by your humble servant in cahoots with Edward Barker, Boss Goodman, Jess Cox, Steve Mann, Su Small, and many more. The featured acts included MC5, the Pretty Things, the Pink Fairies, Sonja Kristina, Kevin Ayers, Edgar Broughton, Mungo Jerry, Mighty Baby, and a whole bunch of unlikely legends. I happened across this piece on The Adventures of Dick Headley – a comrade blog – where it appeared with no explanation, and I have no idea if it’s real or a very obsurist spoof. Maybe DH can clue us in on the provenance.

“I’m pretty sure it was Brion’s idea. Very simple, he said, you take a train from Victoria to Worthing, get off and look for a local bus. Just ask the first aimless looking hippie you see. Who knows, you may even get a piece of ass. And I strongly advise you William, he added, using his best mid-Atlantic phraseology, to shoot up before you go. The chances of finding any horse are slim to none and you don’t want to be caught carrying in Worthing. So nobody packed me a hamper. In fact I wasn’t carrying much apart from my briefcase and the tape recorder. The train mainlined me deep into the lush countryside of Surrey or Sussex or Somewhere. Such a civilized country England. Uptight but civilized. On the way I skimmed through the promotional literature. Phun City. A festival it said. Phun. Pretty Things? Pink Fairies? Hmmmm sounds promising. Just before the train pulls into a place called Brighton I crack a tab of Methadone (1,1-diphenylbutane-2-sulfonic acid and dimethylamino-2-chloropropane) developed in 1939 Germany by scientists working for I.G. Farbenkonzern at the Farbwerke Hoechst. They were looking for a synthetic opioid that could be created with readily available precursors, to solve Germany's opium shortage problem. People, all young, all with long hair, are sitting in groups around a stage. I notice some ominous looking scaffolding. Towers open fire. I get a whiff of hash smoke. Sweetish. Almost certainly Red Leb. There’s a light show. Music. Nobody pays much attention to me. Just the occasional ‘Who’s the old bloke in the suit with earphones?’ Words can hurt. It occurs to me that we could start a tapeworm club and exchange body sound tapes. The word ‘free’ comes up a lot. There’s a group called Free (who refuse to play for free apparently), a free food kitchen (nettle soup), a hamburger stand (under attack) and even a sign flashing a message …“London has been nuked, you are now free”. I start to feel faint. Too much fresh air. Where’s Doc Benway when you need him? Next thing I’m coming to in a kind of tent. Everybody is very helpful. One of the organizers hands me a cup of lukewarm tea. I switch on the tape-recorder. They are complaining about gatecrashers, especially a group called the Swampies, a bunch sleeping rough in the woods. But there’s no gate to crash. No fence. What do they expect? Funny really how even in a situation like this a hierarchy quickly develops. Politics. Outside again and it starts to rain. My trilby elicits some envious looks. I am approached by a girl holding a plastic bag. I make a modest donation. The rain gets heavier. I take a cab back to the railway station. On the train back to London I make a few notes. I’ll work them into something later…”

Click here for Uncle Bill doing Jim

The secret word is Lunch

2 comments:

Graeme K Talboys said...

I was there! Not that I remember much about it. We always seemed to be going to festivals and concerts in those days. Up to London or various places in Sussex. Much of it is blur with the occasional flash that stands out like summer lightning - EBB playing off the back of a lorry, Hawkwind at the Greasy Truckers, waiting for the Floyd who never turned up, a concert at the Dome with the Nice, the Bonzos and some band called Free doing the filler spot - all for 10/6.

'a place called Brighton' sounds a bit odd. Hadn't WB been to Brighton by then? I seem to recall he went to Bill Butler's Unicorn - or was that later?

dh said...

Thanks for the interest. It's part of my unpublished novel called Brighton Line...a mixture of fact and fiction...based on first hand accounts, my own and others, enhanced by time and memory. Hope that helps.